In a profound statement about the status of Richard Petty Motorsports, reeling from the abrupt departure of driver Kasey Kahne and overwhelming financial challenges threatening its future viability, Robbie Loomis, RPM Director of Competition said simply, “Today is all we really have.”
Loomis spoke to the media outside the No. 43 team hauler prior to Cup practice, addressing the multiple issues that his company and his teams have faced throughout the week, as well as the long-term future of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Loomis likened these challenges to the obstacles that he faced six years ago at Martinsville Speedway. In 2004, Loomis was crew chiefing for Jeff Gordon at Martinsville when his driver hit a huge piece of the track that had come loose, destroying the right front corner of his race car, ruining a dominant car and ending what seemed to be an assured victory.
“I told the guys yesterday, I sat back at lunch and said, ‘Look, this is no different than running a race when you’re a crew chief,” Loomis said. “I’ve been right here at Martinsville leading a race and all of a sudden hit a pothole and you’ve got to figure out what to do and how to react to it and move forward. That’s what we’re looking forward to do with Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Loomis also had nothing but praise for RPM departed driver Kasey Kahne, former driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford and now driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for the Martinsville Race. Kahne left the car last race weekend after brake issues forced him off the track and never looked back, letting JJ Yeley finish the race for him.
“Kasey did a great job for us and if you look at the banners in the shop, a lot of them are there from Kasey,” Loomis said. “I really wish him well in his new deal.”
Loomis also confirmed that the only changes so far at Richard Petty Motorsports are the departure of Kahne, as well as his spotter, Kole Kahne.
“The only change we’ve really had is Kasey and his spotter, Kole,” Loomis said. “Kole is a great spotter for Kasey, those are the two guys that are gone.”
With Kahne out of the No. 9 car and into the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, and with Aric Almirola, who had been scheduled to drive the No. 83 Red Bull car, out as a result of Kahne’s early arrival, Loomis and Richard Petty Motorsports moved quickly to snatch Almirola and get the young talented driver into their No. 9 RPM seat.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the job the guys have done with the Aric Almirola seat change on Thursday at the last minute,” Loomis said.
Loomis would not, however, speculate into the future about Aric Almirola and the remaining races for the 2010 season in the No. 9 RPM seat.
“Aric is somebody we were looking at to drive for us next year,” Loomis said. “But the timing of it didn’t work out and come together, so he got the deal with Dale Junior’s Nationwide deal, which is a great opportunity for him and a strong organization.”
While unsure of Almirola’s future, Loomis expressed extreme confidence in the future of Richard Petty Motorsports, expressing high praise for RPM’s relationship with Roush, the team’s face and namesake Richard Petty, and team owner, the Gillett family.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about our relationship with Roush,” Loomis said. “Roush has been great to us. They’ve been a great sponsor, a great provider and work for us in a lot of different ways to help us from the engine shop side with Doug Yates. They work really hard to provide good cars for us.”
“I think a lot of people have their thoughts and prayers with Richard,” Loomis said. “We might see Richard up here tomorrow. He usually comes to Martinsville on Sunday but right now he’s spending a lot of time with Lynda (Petty’s wife who has been ill).
“The Gillett’s, they’ve been through a lot obviously – everyone knows that,” Loomis said. “They’ve worked really hard to be a four-car team last year and continue it this year, and now we’ve got to look at what our teams are gonna look like going into next year.”
Whatever the future struggles for Richard Petty Motorsports, Loomis has one eye currently on this weekend’s Martinsville race and the other looking ahead to Talladega, where Loomis confirmed the team, or at least some iteration of it, will race next weekend.
“Yeah, we’ll be at Talladega,” Loomis said. “I hope we’re all in Talladega. It’s our full intention to keep rolling right along.”
“Like I said before, there’s been a lot of speculation about things, but what gives me confidence is that we’ve always had the ability to move forward,” Loomis said. “You can’t look too far out in the future because today is all that we really have.”